Saturday, October 29, 2016

Apple II+ 64K RAM Refresh and Addressing

I managed to add my modifications back to the Apple II logic board to get the 4164 RAM enabled. It seems to be working! However, I want to address all 64K of the RAM, not just 16K. To do that, I need to refresh the extra RAM rows, multiplex the RAM row and column address for the new RAM address pin, and make sure that row C of RAM stays enabled instead of selecting row C, D, or E. See the detailed plan of attack by clicking below.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Troubleshooting Frustrations

I spent a number of hours last night and tonight trying to figure out why my modified Apple II+ was not beeping, and instead showing a screen full of question marks (or sometimes a white screen) on start-up, even after I added a row of 4264 DRAM. I swapped all of the ICs back and forth with my functioning Apple II+ and still had the same problem. At that point, I realized that I should have done some basic testing before I modified the logic board. I removed my modifications, and still had the same problem.

I found out that I could get very similar symptoms on my working Apple II+ if I removed the F2 74LS139 decoder, which selects which RAM bank to use. So I started checking continuity on my non-working board. I discovered that here wasn't continuity between the low bank selection line and the row that I had my RAM in. I thought I had found a major fault in the board. Then it hit me. The apple II+ rows are labeled A through K, and start with A on the bottom ROW. I had put my RAM in row E (the high address bank), instead of row C (the low address bank). I moved the RAM chips and after swapping out a bad chip, BEEP, and APPLE ][ at the top of the screen.

I felt so dumb. Hours wasted. So now I'm re-doing my modifications. Still time for some progress tonight. At least it's working. That logic board has't been fully functional in probably 30 years.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Apple II+ RAM Replacement - Power

Replacing the RAM in my Apple II+ has become a bit of a project in and of itself. Sure I could just buy some 4116 (16 bit) DRAM, but that's not very exciting, and its not an upgrade. So, Instead, I have been figuring out how I can use 4264 (64 bit) DRAM in its place. There are a lot of considerations that need to be made including power, refresh circuit, and addressing the new RAM. The descriptions below are for an RFI Revision 01 board, and may be different for other revisions. Click below to see the details of re-routing the RAM power lines and my preliminary results.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Apple II+ Logic Board Repairs

Here are the two Apple II+ logic boards that I have for repair. They were mostly stripped of integrated circuit chips, and even have some ports and connectors that were de-soldered to repair other boards (back in the 1980's).

I chose to repair the board on the left due to the missing D6 RAM socket on the other board and a possible damaged trace under the F8 ROM.

I swapped the power connector and added a missing audio jack. These are still available on eBay as "panel mount mono jack":

A word of caution. I have found that the solder on these old boards has the potential to make you feel sick and hung-over. Drink some milk before you solder and work in a very well-ventilated area.

I was able to replace most of the missing IC on the board from the box of spares I had, and from the other board. I have no idea if they work, so that will probably require a lot of troubleshooting.

The only IC I could not replace from old pulls was the one labeled "9334" in the J14 position. Fortunately, this IC can be replaced by a 74LS259, which I had on hand from my early experiments with my SPI based Disk II emulator.

Finally, I did not want to have to troubleshoot with old, possibly bad RAM, so I have some 64K 4264 DRAM chips on hand to see if I can replace the original 16K 4116 chips. This will require some modifications to the logic board (due to the different power requirements and slightly different pinouts), which I hope I can complete before the end of RetroChallenge.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Apple IIb Model

Added power supply and logic board texture. Color change to be Apple II+ olive-beige rather than Lisa tan-beige.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Feet and Boots!

The parts donor Apple II+ I am trying to repair is really a mess. Even the rubber feet were harvested for another computer. Fortunately, I found some decent rubber feet on eBay. I bought two packs of 12 20mmx20mmx8mm and it is a great replacement part for Disk II and Apple II feet.

Regarding my other project, I was pretty scared to connect the repaired IIGS Upgrade board to a power supply, half expecting everything to start smoking. It boots! First time in about 15 years:
IIGS Upgrade board and composite video IIGS Upgrade board and RGB video
Composite video worksand RGB works!

Apple ][b Refinements

Coming along nicely. I used a more period appropriate keyboard layout, and I think it improved the over-all aesthetics. That's the kind of keyboard I would be using anyway. I am thinking, I might make this an Apple ][b -> IIGS upgrade, since the IIGS logic board is looking so good. I could also use the internals of an AppleColor RGB monitor that I have for the IIGS.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Apple IIGS Repairs

Here are the fruits of my labor for the past two weeks. I had already attempted to repair this Apple IIGS Upgrade board, after a battery explosion did a lot of damage to the board and chassis. However, I wasn't really satisfied with how it was working out. I purchased some copper tape, and I am impressed at the way it worked to replace the traces. Much flatter and smoother, like it should be. A couple of resistors replaced and I tinned it all. Then, a lot of continuity testing. I bought some UV cure solder mask and after some time in the sunshine and under a UV light, it looks pretty good. Not perfect, but considering the terrible damage inflicted on this board, I am impressed!
Trace repairs and new SMT resistors in R193 and R14 locations.

Trace repairs and new battery holder.

Copper Tape, UV cure Solder Mask, and a weird spatula thing.

The Hakko soldering iron definitely made this possible. I am afraid to hook up the power supply though...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Some Progress, Some Distraction

I spent some time last week working on a Google Sketchup rendition of my hypothetical Apple IIb. The idea is to solve some of the problems with the Apple II+ as a incremental update. It is clear from the Apple II+ design that some of these fixes were deliberately removed from the design late in the process, possibly to keep cost down and possibly because the Apple III was on the horizon. For instance, the odd keyboard decoder arrangement and missing switch clearly contemplated lowercase and a keypad, but the final design did not include either. Here are my specs:
  • 80 columns. This is difficult without a full terminal card, which was how most Apple II+s were upgraded.
  • Upper/lower case keyboard. Shouldn't be too hard, other than a new character ROM.
  • Separate keyboard with numeric keypad. This didn't catch on until after the Apple III, but it should be a relatively easy addition.
  • Integrated disk drives.
  • Integrated monitor. I'm indifferent here. Although I really think the Tandy TRS-80 Model III and Apple Lisa are some of the best looking retro computers.
  • Two serial ports, and a parallel port. This just requires a few expansion cards.
So, mostly a standardized, well equipped, Apple II+ with a few conveniences we have come to expect. Here is my first rendering with elements borrowed from Lisa I and Apple IIe Google Sketchups:
So, that's the progress. The distraction is work on my Apple IIGS Upgrade. Rather than take on another project (Apple II+ logic board), I decided to dive head first into fixing the IIGS. After replacing some of my previous repairs with copper tape, and a lot of soldering, it looks pretty good. The solder mask is curing under UV light, so I will have pictures tomorrow.